Monday, July 07, 2008

Not with a Bang, But a Whimper (Again)

Today's announcement that the Tribe has offloaded C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for four prospects officially marks the end of the 2008 baseball season. With a bunch of guys on the DL, and mired in last place in the Division, a woeful 14 games behind the front-running White Sox, the Indians made the unsurprising decision to throw in the towel on the 2008 campaign and make the best deal that they could for the unsignable Sabathia.

So let the recriminations begin!

How did this happen? How did a team that was just one game away from a World Series appearance last season not even manage to make it the All-Star break this year before the wheels came off? The short answer is that they can't hit, they have no bullpen, and their roster looks like a M*A*S*H unit.

But there's more to it than that. This is at least the second time this allegedly talented "core group" of Indians has seen a season of tremendous promise end in a downright embarrassing fashion, and then responded to that challenge by throwing in the towel at the start of the following season.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, huh?

It's easy to point the finger at the bullpen, or the injuries, or even --if you're a cynic--the crackdown on performance enhancing drugs. But what bothers me more than the numbers is the attitude. This team is not only bad, but it also doesn't seem to play very hard. I think a lot of fans can't figure out whether the team's just lacking in leadership or if the players just don't care if they win or lose.

Personally, I'm tired of trying to figure out the answer. I just want to see them win the World Series, and I've lost faith that this core group of players is ever going to do it. Sure, you can complain about the alleged tight-fistedness of the Dolans, you can bemoan some of the decisions that Shapiro's made in recent seasons, and you can spend hours trying to figure out whatever it is that Eric Wedge actually does to "manage" the ball club. But none of those things explains how infuriatingly passive the players seem to be about this team's performance. Where's the frustration? Where's the anger? Where are the guys knocking over the buffet? Where are the fights? Where are the snarky comments to the media?

Maybe those kind of reactions are all too "old school" to expect from today's players -- although the Red Sox aren't afraid to mix it up with each other, are they? On the other hand, I think there's plenty of anger among the fan base. I had a funny feeling that this season might turn out like this, and I doubt that I was the only one. Unfortunately, my problem isn't that the Indians didn't live up to my expectations, it's that they did.

Over the past four seasons, the Indians have played well when the wind is at their back, but they haven't shown much heart in the face of adversity, and this is just the latest example of that. Yeah, they've had more than their share of problems this season, but their reaction to them has been to quietly wilt. I said they were gutless in April, and they've spent the better part of the last three months proving that I was right.

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